New & Used Chrysler PT Cruiser: In Depth
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The Chrysler PT Cruiser was a five-door wagon sold from the 2000 to 2010 model years. Originally conceived for Chrysler's Plymouth brand, it was introduced as a Chrysler when the other nameplate was shuttered at the start of the century.
The hatch-wagon came in a few body styles over its lifetime. In addition to the wagon, Chrysler also offered a two-door convertible and a two-door panel wagon. The wagon body styles were classified as light trucks by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for fuel-economy rating purposes.
The idea for the retro-themed PT Cruiser has generally been attributed to former Chrysler, then GM, executive Bob Lutz. After leaving Chrysler and the PT Cruiser, he emerged at GM to champion a similar vehicle, the Chevy HHR. And in the kind of coincidences that tend to happen in the domestic car world, designer Brian Nesbitt is credited with penning both vehicles.
PT Cruisers were built both in Mexico and in Austria for global markets. American versions came standard at launch with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 150 horsepower, while other countries were offered a 2.2-liter diesel from the DaimlerChrysler family of engines. A gas-powered, 2.0-liter four also was sold in some PT Cruisers outside of the U.S. A five-speed manual transmission was standard equipment in U.S. editions, with a four-speed automatic option.
The PT Cruiser gained turbocharging for the 2003 model year. A 180-hp edition was sold simply as a Turbo, while a 230-hp version was marketed as the GT. GT Cruisers also got a more taut suspension tune, 17-inch wheels and tires, and a body-color liftgate spoiler.
For the 2005 model year, Chrysler added the PT Cruiser Convertible, which dropped two doors and the roof from the wagon body style, but added a roll hoop for body rigidity and safety reasons. The PT Cruiser Convertible would remain in the lineup through the 2008 model year. A mild restyling came in the 2006 model year. In this era, anti-lock brakes and side airbags were options, as was satellite radio.
Throughout its lifespan, the PT Cruiser was regularly embellished with special editions. Some were themed for classic-car events or drives--"Dream Cruiser" and "Street Cruiser" among them.
After being sold by Daimler AG, Chrysler was under the aegis of Cerberus Capital Management, a private-equity fund. As Cerberus tried to return Chrysler to salable shape, it decided to cut models from the lineup. The PT Cruiser was one of those models: production ended in 2010.